|B-CU track alum upbeat in battle against cancer|
|Published Tuesday, February 5, 2019|
Summer Brown is quick to say she is no superwoman.
But the former Bethune-Cookman track and field athlete’s positive attitude and cheery outlook in the wake of being diagnosed with Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is worthy of the woman of steel. Despite all that she has gone through in the past 18 months – including being repeatedly misdiagnosed – Brown sprinkles the phrase “I am blessed” throughout conversations about her condition.
The cancerous tumor is in the thigh of her left leg and stretches to the pelvic area. She counts it a blessing that it didn’t spread to other areas of her body during the period she was misdiagnosed. She also counts it a blessing the outpouring of support that she has from her former teammates, her alma mater, the MEAC, other HBCUs – and even archrival Florida A&M.
“The amount of love and empathy,” Brown, a two-time All-MEAC performer who last competed at Bethune-Cookman in 2016, said, “I didn’t expect this. I feel so loved. I am truly blessed. “Being an athlete has helped. God did as well. I look at this as a (track) meet. This is like at conference (championships) and I’m competing again. My boyfriend helps with that. He’s like, ‘OK, you got two events down. You got five more to go, babe.’ That helps me keep my positive attitude.”
Brown’s travails started in Aug. 2017 with pain that radiated from her leg up to her back. Initially, it felt like nothing more than a charley horse, and she pretty much ignored it. The pain persisted. But being an athlete, she was accustomed to pain and pushed through it. It got progressively worse. At various times, doctors told her the problem was the sciatic nerve in her back, a back strain and an IT band issue.
Still, the pain continued and Brown, 24, quit her job with Enterprise Car Rental Agency in Orlando, Florida, and moved back home to Glendale, Arizona. She wound up making a couple of trips to the emergency room when the pain became unbearable.
In the meantime, she was undergoing physical therapy twice a week. After about four sessions, she woke up two days after Christmas and was unable to walk. Her boyfriend, Malik Lewis – also a former B-CU track athlete and the father of Brown’s son – took her to the emergency room.
There, the physician on duty examined her. Not liking what she saw and felt, she ordered an X-ray and an MRI of her leg. Brown thought, “Finally, we’re getting somewhere.”
The doctor was focusing on her leg and not the pain that was radiating up to her back. Next, Brown had an MRI. Once she got the results of the X-ray and MRI, the doctor couldn’t legally give Brown a diagnosis, but she did tell Brown that she was pretty certain a tumor was involved.
Brown was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma on New Year’s Eve. It was categorized as stage 4 because of how it was on the bone. She met with an oncologist, hematologist and orthopedist on Jan. 2, and started chemotherapy treatments on Jan. 3. “It’s been a frustrating journey,” she said.
Brown has completed two rounds of an estimated five rounds of chemotherapy treatments. Thus far, she says she has not experienced any of the side effects that she was warned of, other than feeling fatigued at times. “I’m blessed,” she said. “My energy level has been up and down. That’s been it.”
Brown is undergoing inpatient treatments. That means she is in the hospital for five days, goes home – where her mother is her caregiver – for two weeks off and then repeats the cycle. Go back in for five days. She will have a PET scan following her fourth chemotherapy session to assess how effective the treatments have been.
“I try to keep my mind occupied as much as possible,” she said.
Brown’s dream is to move back to Florida, build up her beauty care clientele and open her own salon. “But my main goal in life before I lay down to rest is to impact others,” she said. “I just love motivating people and inspiring people to be the best they can be. If I can impact and touch as many hearts as possible before I lay down to rest, then I feel like I will have done my job here on earth as far as serving one another is concerned. In the midst of it all, I want to be the best mommy and Summer I can be.”
Not even superwoman can do more.
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